September 18, 2014

12:15 PM | Why the NFL conversation about Ray Rice is so important to me
My first memory is of my father throwing a plate of eggs at my mother’s head, like a frisbee. My mother had to duck to get out of the way, and the plate exploded on the wall behind her. His eggs hadn’t been cooked well enough, and this was his way of expressing that to […]
8:55 AM | Scarcity of time, money, friends and bandwidth
Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir’s Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much is full of interesting insight and experimental results. It presents a novel way of looking at scarcity that extends beyond the typical analysis in economics, the original “science of scarcity”, and will certainly change the way I think about it. But by […]

September 17, 2014

7:09 PM | Two interesting tidbits from a Vanity Fair article on Ebola
This long article in Vanity Fair about the Ebola outbreak that started in Guinea was quite good. I noticed two interesting factlets that I did not know: M.S.F. also needed to get blood samples to a lab capable of testing for Ebola and other exotic pathogens. To that end, a charter plane was dispatched from Conakry to an airstrip outside Guéckédou. Blood samples with suspected Ebola virus are categorized for transport by a special code, UN 2814, indicating […]
4:20 PM | Your NSFW typo of the day
Thanks to @fxcoudert, who notes that there is more than one way to spell Hartree-Fock.
4:19 PM | Warning Letter of the Week: bare hands!
I have a sense that FDA is stepping up its monitoring of pharmacies after the Massachusetts debacle. Here's a recent warning letter that's a bit disturbing: In addition, the investigators observed serious deficiencies in your practices for producing sterile drug products, which put patients at risk.  For example, our inspection found your facility was not physically designed and environmentally controlled to minimize airborne contamination, and the ISO 5 hood was located in an […]
10:54 AM | The green-eyed/ blue-eyed puzzle/ conundrum
Today I want to share a puzzle that my friend Aaron Abrams told me a few days ago. I’m sure some of you have heard it before, but it’s confusing me, so I’m asking for your help. Set-up Here’s the setup. There’s an island of people, all of whom have either blue eyes or green […]
7:27 AM | RCPs, SSPs, SPAs, …. what????
At the latest with the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a number of new acronyms started spilling out of the climate change research community to policy makers and the broader interested public. Centrally among them are RCPs, SSPs and SPAs, meaning Representative Concentration Pathways, Shared Socio-economic Pathways and […]

September 16, 2014

6:32 PM | Oooops: NPR's non-research jobs link is dead
What I got when I clicked on NPR's link for Ph.D. workin "other fields."NPR's Richard Harris is doing a pretty great series on the difficulties of biomedical researchers. (The second link features an assistant professor-turned-grocer - yikes!) In today's segment, he goes over the travails of biomedical postdoctoral fellows, talking to 3 postdocs, all of which are trying to find tenure-track positions unsuccessfully. And then there's this little paragraph:There actually are jobs – in […]
12:22 PM | Christian Rudder’s Dataclysm
Here’s what I’ve spent the last couple of days doing: alternatively reading Christian Rudder’s new book Dataclysm and proofreading a report by AAPOR which discusses the benefits, dangers, and ethics of using big data, which is mostly “found” data originally meant for some other purpose, as a replacement for public surveys, with their carefully constructed data […]
12:11 AM | This week's C&EN
Lots going on in this week's issue:Surely it means something that Indian pharmaceutical company Piramal is ending its drug discovery efforts in India? How odd. (article by Jean-François Tremblay)Enjoyed reading about Samantha Arnett, Ph.D. bioinorganic chemist and the State Department's Biosecurity Engagement Program's manager. (article by Deirdre Lockwood) (registration required)I found this letter by Martin Feldman of Howard University very interesting and a rather pointed critique of […]

September 15, 2014

4:40 PM | What's wrong with this picture?
Courtesy of Bubba at In The Pipeline, a truly amusing set of bad chemistry structures behind this fake chemistry teacher.(Surely correcting bad chemistry in Hollywood could be a paying job for someone, right?)Also, a very perceptive comment from him:"If you don't watch TV between 6 and 7pm, then you are entirely missing the public face of pharma."Oh, dear, I'm afraid that's true. 
3:30 PM | Morning tidbit: 538 on why STEM is TE
Ben Casselman, an economics writer for 538, Nate Silver's data website, has written "an economic guide to picking a college major". Here's a rather lovely paragraph:All STEM fields aren’t the same Politicians love to tout the importance of science, technology, engineering and math majors. But when it comes to earnings, the “S” majors don’t really belong with the “TEM” ones. Engineering majors are nearly all high-paying. So are most computer and math […]

September 14, 2014

2:38 PM | Are we on the path of 'Limits to Growth'?
Probably the most important thing you need to know about the 1972 book entitled Limits to Growth is that it makes no predictions. Rather, the much maligned study provides scenarios for thinking about the future of resource use, pollution, population, food, and industrial production.Limits to Growth detailed three scenarios originally, one of them called business-as-usual or BAU. Since then, countless scenarios have been run using the same model--called World3--and some of them are discussed in […]

September 13, 2014

1:08 PM | Aunt Pythia’s advice
Do you know what Aunt Pythia has been occupied with recently? Yes, you guessed it, she has a fantabulous new knitting pattern and she just can’t get enough of it. Here’s a recent work-in-progress pic: I hope you know how much Aunt Pythia must love you considering how hard it was to tear herself away […]

September 12, 2014

8:38 PM | Naturejobs falls for the "PhDs have lower unemployment!" fallacy
Via Twitter, yet another alternative careers essay, this one from Annalise Smith, a graduate student at the University of Miami on the Naturejobs website:...A Nature article published in 2011 contends that the academic positions for science PhD holders are decreasing and sectors outside of academia are unable to compensate. Yet the unemployment rate for PhD graduates in the life sciences remains at a low of 1.5%, much lower than the national unemployment rate in the United States. So are […]
11:00 AM | What’s next for mathbabe?
The Colombia J-School program that I have been directing, The Lede Program in Data Journalism, has wound down this past week and in four days my 6-month contract with Columbia will end. I’ve had a fantastic time and I am super proud of what we accomplished this past summer. The students from the program are awesome and […]
9:33 AM | A week of links
Links this week: An excellent Econtalk podcast with Jonathan Haidt. Just don’t buy his lines about group selection – my reasons here. Steven Pinker’s amusing article on the Ivy League. Pinker also pointed out this oldie but goodie – Bell Curve Liberals. Greg Clark applies his work on social mobility to immigration. Reihan Salam comments. […]

September 11, 2014

2:57 PM | Job posting: experienced Ph.D. medicinal chemist, Alkermes, Waltham, MA
From the inbox, a position at Alkermes:Alkermes R&D is searching for an experienced medicinal chemist to play a key role in advancing the drug discovery pipeline. The incumbent will propose synthetic targets, design synthetic routes, interface with outsourced medicinal chemistry resources, and develop structure-activity relationships (SAR) to drive the iterative optimization of leads. Additional responsibilities include participation in experimental planning, data analysis, and […]
10:30 AM | Guest post: New Federal Banking Regulations Undermine Obama Infrastructure Stance
This is a guest post by Marc Joffe, a former Senior Director at Moody’s Analytics, who founded Public Sector Credit Solutions in 2011 to educate the public about the risk – or lack of risk – in government securities. Marc published an open source government bond rating tool in 2012 and launched a transparent credit scoring platform for […]

September 10, 2014

5:21 PM | A huge sign that Accenture does not understand the chemicals industry
Courtesy of my morning ACC Smartbrief, I see that Accenture has put out a report about the shale gas revolution and how the chemicals industry needs to prepare for future economic conditions once the boom is over.All fine, but the report (PDF here) is marred by horrifyingly amateurish graphics of colored water in flasks, soap bubbles and dry ice in water. If they had put "IGNORE ME, I KNOW NOTHING OF YOUR WORK" in 72-point font across the bottom, the effect could not have been worse.(Why do […]
9:12 AM | Nudging citizens to be risk savvy
I should start this review of Gerd Gigerenzer’s least satisfactory but still interesting book, Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions, by saying that I am a huge Gigerenzer fan and that this book is still worth reading. But there was something about this book that grated at times, especially against the backdrop of his other fantastic work. […]

September 09, 2014

5:00 PM | In practice, though, we might not.
I'd love to know what translation error led to this little booboo. I presume it's "as a principle". 
3:40 PM | Professors, retirement and marriages
In this week's C&EN, a worthwhile article by Linda Wang on emeritus professors and their transitions, specifically Ed Vedejs, Al Padwa and Nancy Mills. It contained a very interesting (and unintentional, I suspect) contrast of marriages of the professors:Nancy S. Mills, who will retire next year from Trinity University, a predominantly undergraduate institution in San Antonio, says she’s so busy finishing up her research projects that she hasn’t had time to think about shutting […]
3:15 PM | This week's C&EN
Lots of interesting articles in this week's C&EN, too: The White House has requested a safety stand-down due to the loose pathogen messes at CDC, NIH and FDA. Surely, National Lab Cleanup Day cannot be far behind -- wouldn't it be awesome for the President to come down, put on some PPE and clean out a cabinet or two? (article by Jyllian Kemsley)This trifluoromethanide structure sounds pretty important (article by Stephen Ritter)Lisa Jarvis covers the financial aspects of the ALS ice […]
3:08 PM | Neural Correlates of Gender Differences in Reputation Building
Gender differences in reputation building and cooperative behavior are investigated in our last neuroeconomic study just published on PLoS One.Garbarini F, Boero R, D'Agata F, Bravo G, Mosso C, et al. (2014) Neural Correlates of Gender Differences in Reputation Building. PLoS ONE 9(9): e106285. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106285AbstractGender differences in cooperative choices and their neural correlates were investigated in a situation where reputation represented a crucial issue. Males and […]
2:46 PM | Last week's C&EN
Lots of interesting things in last week's C&EN, which I missed because its release was still (as far as I was concerned) in the middle of my Labor Day weekend:I learned a lot from this Beth Halford feature on HIV and gp120.This Rick Mullin article about the growing biotech industry in New York City (registration required) reminds me that a metric to rank biotech hubs would be a useful tool, sort of.  Where's all the carbon tet coming from? (by Cheryl Hogue)Love it when even […]
12:10 PM | Wife beating education for sports fan and everyone else
Do you know what I am doing this morning? I’m glued to ESPN talk radio, which is 98.7FM in the NYC area, although it is a national station and can be streamed online as well. Here’s a statement you might be surprised to hear from me. In the past decade, sports talk radio has become […]

September 08, 2014

9:16 PM | Who gave Bill Gates his C+ in organic chemistry?
The long policy article of the weekend was probably the New York Times Magazine article on Bill Gates' desire for an integrated history course. I think it is pretty awesome that he admits to a C+ plus in organic chemistry.So who taught Gates organic chemistry? It would probably have been between 1973 and 1975 or so... Was it the Fiesers?(Substantively, I don't think the article addresses what I want to know, which is "What has been the history of teaching world history? How does Gates' […]
10:59 AM | Reverse-engineering the college admissions process
I just finished reading a fascinating article from Bloomberg BusinessWeek about a man who claims to have  reverse-engineered the admission processes at Ivy League colleges (hat tip Jan Zilinsky). His name is Steven Ma, and as befits an ex-hedge funder, he has built an algorithm of sorts to work well with both the admission algorithms at […]

September 07, 2014

1:42 PM | The more uncertain we are, the more careful we should be
It is a staple of apologists for the chemical and fossil fuel industries to say, "We have no proof that what you are talking about is dangerous." Let me restate that in probabilistic terms: "We are highly uncertain about the harm of what you are talking about."When stated in probabilistic terms, uncertainty about harm becomes much more alarming. Nassim Nicholas Taleb has added to a working paper which I discussed last week entitled "The Precautionary Principle: Fragility and Black Swans from […]
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